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Your letters: Raise tobacco purchase age to 21

Our county commissioners are doing the right thing by considering an ordinance change that would raise the tobacco sale age to 21. Tobacco use continues to take a terrible toll in our community and throughout the state. Every year, more than 6,000 Minnesotans die from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco use also costs our state more than $7 billion in excess healthcare costs and lost productivity. Now consider that teen tobacco use is up for the first time since the Minnesota Department of Health starting surveying middle and high school students about their tobacco use. More than one in four Minnesota high schoolers uses tobacco products. That's up seven percent since 2014, thanks in large part to the dramatic increase in teen e-cigarette use. Our goal should be to prevent teens from getting hooked on any tobacco products. Nearly all tobacco products contain nicotine, which makes them highly addictive and harmful to teen brain development. We know well the dangers of smoking, of course. Research has also shown that e-cigarette vapor contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other carcinogens. If we raise the tobacco sale age to 21, we make it much harder for teens in high school and younger to access cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chew and other products. Students over the age of 18 are a primary source of tobacco products for younger teens. There are quite a few 18-year-olds in high school, but no 21-year-old students. Tobacco 21 is a commonsense policy that reduces youth tobacco access and helps prevent more kids from getting hooked. We don't need to wait to act — we can protect local kids now and we should. Tell Otter Tail County Commissioners you support Tobacco 21.

Maggie Fresonke Perham Health Community Health Coordinator